Federal Court Orders California To Cease Contracts For Out-Of-State Private Prisons

CREDIT: AP Photo/California Department of Corrections

Inmates sit in crowded conditions at California State Prison, Los Angeles.

PrisonOvercrowdingAfter a federal court ordered California to reduce its prison population by 10,000 prisoners by the end of the year to ease unconstitutional overcrowding, California started pursuing contracts with private prison firms to house thousands of prisoners in other states.

In its latest filing, the state said it either needed a time extension, or it would move forward with the contracts. Ceding partially to the ultimatum, the court this week gave California a four-week extension — not the three-year extension it requested — but not without ordering California to stop signing anymore contracts for out-of-state prisons. On Monday, California signed a $30 million contract with private prison firm GEO group to house 1,400 prisoners out of state. The state was in talks with other firms, including Corrections Corporation of America, which have now been thwarted by the new court order, according to the Los Angeles Times. A report released last week revealed the frequent use of inmate quotas in private prison contracts, which lock states into either keeping incarceration rates high or paying for empty beds.

The three-judge panel ordered the two parties to start meeting immediately and reach a compromise. The panel also explicitly urged the state to consider other means for releasing “low-risk inmates,” including through the sentencing reform law passed in November that has already seen the successful release of many inmates, and release of immigration detainees, as well as juvenile, elderly, and ill inmates.